And called on the Prime Minister to make good on his 2018 promise to establish the commission.
Zali Steggall supports the need for an Australian Federal Integrity Commission
25 October 2021
I am very proud to second this bill to establish an Australian federal integrity commission, presented by the member for Indi. The member for Indi has done the work. The Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill 2021 is absolutely the legislation the Australian people expect to be put into place to ensure we clean up our federal politics. An integrity commission with teeth is needed more than ever. This 46th Parliament has seen an appalling level of secrecy, shocking incidents, cover-ups and very questionable conduct from all layers, from backbenchers to ministerial levels—spending of public funds without due process or any transparency, an increase in the level of objection to any kind of freedom-of-information requests, a real obstruction to any kind of transparency. An integrity commission with teeth would be able to investigate whether there is any question to answer and whether any corruption has occurred in looking at issues like the member for Pearce's blind trust. The public is astounded at the events that can occur in this place.
We've seen the government hiding behind the absence of an integrity commission and the use of whatever tools they've had at their disposal to prevent a thorough investigation. By contrast, we have seen our two biggest states' integrity commissions in action over the past week. They are hard at work. This week both the New South Wales and Victorian integrity commissions are in full swing investigating potential misuse of public funds through grants and branch stacking and use of public resources to pay for political activity. And yet at a federal level there is no proper body to investigate serious allegations of abuse of position or power. Regular surveys show that 80 per cent of Australians support the establishment of a federal anticorruption watchdog. The closest thing we have at the moment is the Auditor-General's office, a body that is looking into scandals at the federal level, revealing further damning reports just last week into the administration of grants funds, showing that, by value, most grants—42 per cent—are awarded through a closed, noncompetitive selection process, and that 20 per cent had a reported selection process that was different to that reported for their related opportunities. This adds to the already long list of scandals, including car park rorts, sports rorts and the Leppington land sale for Sydney's second airport, to name just a few. The Auditor-General is going above and beyond to investigate such matters with severely limited resources.
A federal integrity commission would provide a forum for proper investigation and inquiry, an opportunity for wrongdoers to be exposed but also for those wrongly accused to be exonerated, and for due process to be followed. We don't want trial by media; we want thorough investigation. We need proper process. All sides of politics claim to support the need for a federal integrity commission, but the Australian people have seen very little action. I agree with the member for Indi that, to avoid the partisan slinging match that we see all too often in this place, it is a proposal from the crossbench that has that ability to bring together the best model possible.
A federal integrity commission with retrospective powers is needed now more than ever to ensure that this record-breaking spending and all the events and allegations we've seen from both sides of politics are properly investigated. We've seen in this parliament a disregard and carelessness for accountability and good governance, which is dangerous. I would say it's an insult to the Australian people and our communities. Australians are subject to rules and expectations in their duties, in their jobs. There is no reason for public servants, MPs and senators and their staff not to be held to the same standards.
It's time to bring on for debate the Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill. The Australian people deserve better. They deserve to trust in the government, trust in the decisions of this place and trust that there is a process to ensure integrity and anticorruption. I commend the bill to the House.
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